Sunday, August 24, 2014

Feeding the 4000

Matthew 15:29 Jesus moved on from there along the shore of the Galilee Sea. He went up a mountain and sat down. 30 Large crowds came to him, including those who were paralyzed, blind, injured, and unable to speak, and many others. They laid them at his feet, and he healed them. 31 So the crowd was amazed when they saw those who had been unable to speak talking, and the paralyzed cured, and the injured walking, and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.  32 Now Jesus called his disciples and said, “I feel sorry for the crowd because they have been with me for three days and have nothing to eat. I don’t want to send them away hungry for fear they won’t have enough strength to travel.” 33 His disciples replied, “Where are we going to get enough food in this wilderness to satisfy such a big crowd?” 34 Jesus said, “How much bread do you have?” They responded, “Seven loaves and a few fish.” 35 He told the crowd to sit on the ground. 36 He took the seven loaves of bread and the fish. After he gave thanks, he broke them into pieces and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 37 Everyone ate until they were full. The disciples collected seven baskets full of leftovers. 38 Four thousand men ate, plus women and children.39 After dismissing the crowds, Jesus got into the boat and came to the region of Magadan. (CEB)

There's something going on when Jesus asks "Who do the people say the Son of Man is?" just a few verses after this second of the multiplication of food miracles. It has something in common with the moment he shared in that other distinctly unwelcome place (compare Tyre and Sidon with Caesarea Philippi

In the first instance he loses (let's call it) an argument.  And in so doing gives us this beautiful insight into his work and the hope God has maintained in continuing to choose Israel.  "I am your God, your are my people and you will be blessed."  Over and over God reminds Israel whose they are and what it means.  The argument Jesus has is exactly so that we can again be reminded that Israel's blessedness is a means to an end and not an end in itself.  "Even the dogs get to eat the crumbs."  

It was just a few verses back and the crumbs added up to twelve baskets full.  Israel is not just a vehicle of blessing but is blessed in being a vehicle.

So there's more to this feeding thing, this blessedness thing than Israel's turn at it.  Again Jesus walks off, this time he draws a crowd of broken people and calls his disciples to feed them. This time, 7 loaves and an undetermined amount of fish.  This time, 4000.  This time, 7 baskets full of crumbs.  

So when Jesus asks Peter and the disciples about their take on who he is we need to read with the same squint that we used for the woman from Tyre and Sidon.  What we saw the first time was a demon possessed daughter being healed.  What we see this time is Peter getting a set of keys.  

What we learned the first time was that Israel's blessedness was not an end in itself.  What we can learn from Peter is that having the right answers about who Jesus is and what God is up to in him assures us of a huge responsibility.  This responsibility is closely kin to the one we learned about Israel.  But this time its not enough to let a few crumbs fall.  This time the feeding is on purpose and the world gets the leftovers. A basket for everyday, full. 

Whatever you bind, whatever you loose.  You’re doing heaven’s work now. 

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